The Tampa Bay Buccaneers went into their preseason finale on Thursday night with twin goals: beat the Washington Redskins and get the bottom half of their roster some valuable exposure before the upcoming final cut.
They did not accomplish the first goal, as the Redskins left Raymond James Stadium with a 24-10 victory that completed a 1-3 preseason for the Buccaneers. The second goal was met by default – 20 of 22 starters plus a few other core players were held out of the game – but it remains to be seen if the resulting game tape will help with the coaches' roster decisions.
After dominating the first half with their starters five days earlier in Buffalo, the Buccaneers saw their reserves dominated before halftime by their Washington counterparts. Washington led 10-0 at the half but controlled the action much more than that would indicate, out-gaining the Buccaneers, 197-14, in total yards. The Bucs had a particularly difficult time getting the passing game on track, with -13 net yards by halftime.
Both teams picked up the pace offensively in the second half but Washington still finished with a 443-157 yardage edge. The Buccaneers struggled to convert on third downs (two of 10) and finished with just 12 first downs. They did mount two scoring drives in the second half, however, leading to a 35-yard Patrick Murray field goal and a 25-yard Solomon Patton touchdown catch in the third quarter.
"We were just getting some drives going," said quarterback Mike Kafka, who relieved starter Mike Glennon after one drive. "Third downs had kind of hurt us, but we learned from the first half and were able to get a little better in the second half."
If Tampa Bay coaches are searching for bright spots during Fridays' game review, they can take heart that defensive takeaways kept the Bucs in the game while the offense was struggling. CB Keith Lewis, an undrafted free agent out of Virginia-Lynchburg – which has never produced an NFL player – intercepted a Colt McCoy pass in the end zone in the second quarter with textbook coverage of a vertical route. Washington nearly scored again just before halftime but LB Danny Lansanah made a diving tip of a hard pass and LB Nate Askew intercepted the deflection in the end zone.
Lewis is one of nine cornerbacks remaining on the roster, at a position where the team will likely keep five or six. Those decisions will be made over the next 24 hours, and Lewis' big play certainly didn't hurt his cause. There is also the 10-man practice squad to keep in mind when evaluating these young players.
"It helps," said Head Coach Lovie Smith of Lewis' interception. "We told the guys to do something to make us put them on the team. Making big plays like that will at least make us take note."
Lansanah's goal-line tip wasn't his only big play of the night. Tampa Bay's run defense continued to look solid, even with the reserves, and Lansanah led the charge with three tackles for loss among his five stops. Lansanah's strong training camp had earned him a start with the first-team defense in Buffalo in Week Three, and he kept his August momentum going on Thursday night.
"He's made a lot of progress throughout the preseason, training camp and all," said Smith. "We wanted to get a long look at him, and, of course, tonight he's doing some good things."
Second-year QB Mike Glennon started the game for the Buccaneers but played just one drive before being replaced by Kafka. RB Bobby Rainey also started and looked strong on his first two carries but finished with just 11 yards on five totes. RB Jeff Demps – who is trying to prove that he's more than just a track star – got the majority of the work in the backfield and was impressive at times, gaining 59 yards on 20 carries. Demps was also worked into the kick return rotation and he started off the Bucs' lone touchdown drive with a 37-yard return that showed off his great speed.
"I've been grinding hard since the offseason trying to make the cut," said Demps. "Hopefully, I did. I had to come out and control what I could control, and that was to come out tonight and show them what I can do…and play a whole game as a true running back."
The Bucs completed just nine passes in the game, seven by Kafka in 14 attempts, but two went to the rookie Patton, who is trying to make the team primarily as a kick returner. His touchdown catch in the third quarter showed off his speed and quick moves and should help when the roster decisions are being made this weekend.
"First off, I thought we had great protection up front," said Kafka of the play that sprung Patton for six points. "I really think we had great protection the whole game. Solo made a great play on it, made some yards after the catch and went and scored for us. It was a great play."
Neither team mounted much of an offense in the first quarter, but the Redskins did put together a 47-yard field goal drive late in the period, with Kai Forbath banging home a 45-yarder for the game's first points. On the next play from scrimmage, LB Brad Miller timed a blitz perfectly and forced a fumble by Kafka that he recovered and returned to the Bucs' two-yard line. On the first play of the second quarter, QB Colt McCoy hit WR Ryan Grant on a fade to the right side of the end zone.
McCoy and the Redskins' offense did manage to find a groove in the second quarter, embarking on 41- and 72-yard drives that reached the Bucs' red zone. They were turned away in both cases, however, by the Lewis and Askew interceptions, keeping the score at 10-0 at halftime.
The Bucs game-opening drive got off to a nice start as Rainey dashed over right guard for nine yards and Glennon hit FB Lonnie Pryor on a short pass to move the sticks. After another five-yard run by Rainey and an incompletion, Glennon hit Murphy on a crossing route and the receiver was able to slice through two defenders to get just enough for another first down at the Bucs' 40. However, the Skins' defense trapped Rainey in the backfield for consecutive one-yard losses after that, and the Bucs tried an inside draw play on third-and-12 that did not fool the defense.
Keith Tandy's impressive solo tackle of return man Richard Crawford on the ensuing punt forced Washington to start at its own 12. The Redskins got a first down on a play-action rollout pass by Colt McCoy to WR Aldrick Robinson, but quickly faced a third-and-12 after Lansanah's tackle of RB Evan Royster two yards deep in the backfield.
Kafka came in to helm the next drive, but a sack by DE Clifton Geathers made short work of the possession. The Bucs' defense got the ball right back, however, with a three-and-out ending in Anthony Gaitor's diving pass breakup of a short sideline pass intended for WR Ryan Grant.
After another a quick three-and-out by the Bucs, and a 63-yard punt by Michael Koenen, the Redskins got the ball into Buccaneers territory on a 20-yard catch by Grant and a 12-yard catch-and-run by WR Lee Doss on third-and-four. The drive stalled at Tampa Bay's 27, but that was close enough for K Kai Forbath to start the scoring with a 45-yard field goal with 40 seconds left in the first quarter.
Photos from pregame warmups and the first half of Buccaneers vs. Redskins.
Washington LB Gabe Miller put the Redskins in position to score again moments later when he caught Kafka on a late blitz, swatted the ball from the quarterback's hand and recovered the ball almost in one fluid motion. Kafka did manage to push Miller out of bounds at the two, but McCoy got the ball in the end zone two plays later – on the first play of the second quarter – with a little fade pass to Grant on the right side.
Two nice four-yard runs by Demps got the next drive start off right for the Bucs, but his attempt to sweep left on third-and-two was swarmed over by Washington tacklers. The Redskins used the ensuing possession to drive right back into Buccaneer territory, but Lewis turned them away with a fine play in the end zone, shadowing WR Aldrick Robinson on a vertical route, turning at just the right time and leaping to pick off the pass at the highest point possible.
That turnover eliminated a scoring opportunity for the Redskins but led to nothing but another punt by the Bucs' offense, and the Redskins were able to drive back into the red zone before halftime. A nine-yard run on a third-and-eight draw play by RB Silas Redd made it first-and-goal at the 10 with 23 seconds to play in the half.
Two plays later, the Bucs' defense once again took the ball away at the last second. McCoy tried to throw a hard pass into the front of the end zone to TE Logan Paulsen but Lansanah dived at the last second to get his hand on the ball and Askew picked off the deflection and ran it out of the end zone.
Washington got the ball first to start the second half and mounted another strong but ultimately fruitless drive. A 20-yard run by Redd got the ball across midfield but Lansanah followed with another tackle for loss, trapping Redd two yards deep, and Solomon sacked McCoy on third-and-11 to force a punt.
Demps darted over right tackle for eight yards to start the Bucs' next possession. Two plays later, Kafka found Murphy for a gain of 18 on the right sideline, and another pass in the same vicinity plus an unnecessary roughness call on S Akeem Davis took the ball down to Washington's 24. The Bucs faced a third-and-three at the 17 but Crawford broke up a short pass intended for Patton and the Bucs brought on first-year kicker Patrick Murray. Murray banged it home from 35 yards out to cut the Redskins' lead to 10-3.
The Redskins got those points back, and more, quickly. On the second play of the ensuing drive, RB Lache Seastrunk caught a short pass in the right flat, ran past CBs Quinton Pointer and Anthony Gaitor and didn't stop until he was in the end zone 80 yards later.
Photos from the second half of Buccaneers vs. Redskins.
The Bucs answered right back, as well. Demps got the corner on his kickoff return and turned on the jets for a 37-yarder to the Bucs' 33, then broke free for a 19-yard run on the next play. Two Kafka completions to Owusu for a total of 19 yards got the Bucs into scoring territory, and Patton finished it off with a nifty 25-yard touchdown catch. Kafka's pass just got over one defender's hand to get to Patton, who then made an incoming tackler missed and turned up the speed to just get over the right pylon.
As both offenses continued to pick up momentum, the Redskins drove back into Buccaneers territory on the next drive, mostly on a series of runs by Seastrunk and Redd. The drive reached the Bucs' 18 before DT Matthew Masifilo and LB Dane Fletcher made consecutive stops of Seastrunk on second and third down to force a field goal attempt. Rookie Zach Hooker pushed his 39-yard field goal try just outside the right upright to keep it a one-score game.
The Redskins got the ball back quickly, however, and mounted one final touchdown drive to put the game out of reach. Redd scored on a one-yard plunge after his own 10-yard run down to the shadow of the goal line.
- The only three players listed as starters on the Bucs' depth chart who played on Thursday night were SLB Jonathan Casillas, LG Oniel Cousins and RG Patrick Omameh. Washington's only listed starter to open the game was FB Darrel Young.
- With Offensive Coordinator Jeff Tedford absent due to a recent medical procedure, Quarterbacks Coach Marcus Arroyo became the point man in calling plays, though the whole offensive staff was involved in the process.